Pseudoscience & Religion

Buddha, The Sensible Rationalist!

This is the 7th and concluding part of Dr. Kamath’s series on Heretics, Rebels, Reformers and Revolutionaries. Links to all articles in this series can be found here. Dr. Kamath’s previous series on The Truth About The Bhagavad Gita can be found here.

The seventh and the last Samurai in our series, who revolted against Brahmanism, was Siddhartha Gautama, a prince of the Sakhya clan of Kapilavastu, a small kingdom at the foothills of the Himalayas. He is arguably the greatest Indian ever, and one of the greatest thinkers in the history of the world. Most of what we know of him comes to us from various Buddhist literature, memorized, and orally transmitted from generation to generation, and finally written down nearly four hundred years after his death in 483 B. C. Even though he was certainly a historical figure, most supernatural events, and irrational beliefs attributed to him must certainly be due to embellishment by overenthusiastic later adherents of Buddhism. Most of the initial converts were Brahmins, who brought with them their Brahmanic baggage. I am certain that the Buddha, a rationalist to boot, would have a hearty laugh at most mindless rituals practiced by various Buddhist sects around the world. There is no dearth of hypocrites, impostors and opportunists in this world.

The Buddha Was Way Ahead Of His Time

Siddhartha Gautama was perhaps over three thousand years ahead of his time. He was the product of the post-Vedic ‘Age of Disillusionment”. During the period of 1000-200 B. C. intellectuals of India were uniformly disgusted by the twin scourges of decadent Brahmanism: Rampant animal sacrifices sponsored by kings and officiated by Brahmins; and inequities associated with Varna Dharma -the class system based on the theory of unequal distribution of the Gunas of Prakriti and Karma (comeuppance) from one’s previous lives. Upanishadism, Jainism, and a host of other heterodox sects across the board, which preceded Buddhism, considered the world as a miserable place to live, thanks to Brahmanism. They were all busy trying to discover a sensible method for the FINAL EXIT from it. All these were like a bunch of cooks who were frantically looking for the nearest exit from a kitchen on fire.

Upanishadism And Buddhism

There is no evidence that the Buddha studied the anti-Brahmanic Upanishadic doctrines of Brahman/Atman and Yoga before arriving at his Four Noble Truths and Eight-fold Noble Path. The Buddha did not believe in Brahman/Atman concept. However, meditation proposed by him was nothing but secular form of Yoga, which later on found its way into the Upanishadic Gita as Buddhiyoga (2:48-53). Even though the Upanishadic doctrines were not available to the general public during this time (6th century B. C.) due to them being hidden by Brahmins as Shruthis, it is possible that intellectuals of north India had some idea as to what their theories were for the problem of Dukkha (sorrow) here on earth and Samsara (unending cycle of birth and death) hereafter.

We should remember here that the Upanishads considered decadent Brahmanism as the cause of three miseries: Shokam (grief), Dwandwam (restlessness and stress) and Karmaphalam (leading to Samsara). Their goal was to dismantle the very foundation of Brahmanism, namely the Gunas of Prakriti and the Law of Karma; and to knock down its four pillars: The Vedas, Varna Dharma, Yajnas and supremacy of Brahmins. These were also the very goals of the Buddha, and he succeeded in doing so for a thousand years, thanks to Ashoka the Great (ruled 272-232 B. C.) who made Buddhism a World Religion. It will be of interest to us here that when Upanishadists took over Arjuna Vishada (the Original Gita), around 200 B. C. they incorporated many of Buddha’s teachings into it.

Buddha Decries Animal Sacrifices

In accordance with his doctrine of infinite compassion for he suffering of all living creatures, the Buddha revolted against animal sacrifices, which had corrupted Yajnas due to greed of Brahmins:

Suttanipata: 2:7:23-26: But largesse (of the king) fired their (Brahmins’) passions more to get; their craving grew. Once more they sought Okkāka; with these verses newly framed: “As earth and water, gold and silver, so are cows a primal requisite of man. Great store, great wealth is thine; make (cow) sacrifice!

Then the king, the lord of chariots, persuaded by these Brāhmins, killed hundreds of thousands of cows in sacrifice. Cows sweet as lamb, filling pails with milk, never hurting anyone with foot or horn -the king had them seized by the horns and slaughtered by the sword.”

The Buddha expresses his horror:

Suttanipata: 2:7:27-30: Then the gods, the Pitrus (ancestral spirits), Indra, the Asuras, the Rakshasas cried out as the weapon fell on the cows, “Lo! This is injustice!” Of old there were only three diseases -desire, want of food, and decay. Owing to the killing of the cattle, there sprang ninety-eight diseases. This old sin of injury to living beings has come down (to this day). Innocent cows are killed. Priests have fallen off their virtues.

“This is how,” The Buddha concluded, “Kshatriyas and self-styled Brāhmins and others protected by rank destroyed the repute of their caste and fell prey to desires.”

The Buddha Tells Kshatriyas Not To Waste Money On Yajnas

Kutadanta Sutta describes a parable told by the Buddha to a Brahmin who wanted to perform a big sacrifice. In this parable, a king by the name of Mahavijita decides to perform a great sacrifice, “that would be to my benefit and happiness for a long time.” Recognizing the fact that the additional taxation required for this ostentatious Yajna would ruin people and the country, his wise minister, a capitalist to boot, tells the king instead to invest that money to, “get rid of the thieves and robbers plaguing the country; distribute grain and fodder to peasants; give capital to businessmen; and pay government servants proper wages.” This quintessential minister concludes, “Then those people, being intent on their own occupations, will not harm the kingdom; your majesty’s revenues will be great; the land will be tranquil, and not beset by thieves; and the people, with joy in their hearts, playing with their children, will dwell in open houses.” Thus enlightened, the king followed his minister’s advice and consequently his kingdom prospered. This advice is valid for Indian government to this very

Ashoka the Great followed this example and acted selflessly for the welfare of all people in his kingdom. Whereas Brahmins used his negative image (of a fallen and renegade Kshatriya who abandoned Brahmanism and embraced Buddhism) to describe a pathetic Arjuna contemplating abandoning his Dharma in Arjuna Vishada, (the Original Gita, 1:28-47), Upanishadists used his positive image of an enlightened and energetic king who worked incessantly for the welfare of all people as their model of Karmayogi (3:20).

The Buddha Opposes Varna Dharma

In defiance of Brahmanism, which considered Brahmins as gift of Brahman (BG: 17:23), the Buddha advocated equality of all people. Like Upanishadists before him, he said that a man’s character, and not his class of birth, should determine his status in life. Assallayana Sutta describes an incident in which Brahmins prompt a brilliant and erudite young Brahmin to debate the Buddha regarding Varna Dharma. The boy tells the Buddha to disprove the fact that Brahmins were superior to all other classes and true heirs to Brahman. The Buddha engages this boy in a thought-provoking debate, and in a stepwise manner debunks his claim and makes the boy come to the conclusion that, in the final analysis, it is one’s moral caliber and not class of birth that determines one’s status in life.

The Middle Path

Those days thousands upon thousands of wandering sophists, known as Parivrajaka, roamed the country. May of them indulged in self-torture as the path to their salvation from sorrow and Samsara. Before he came up with his own solutions for the Dukkha (sorrow, misery) in the world, the Buddha tried, and then discarded severe self-denial and self-torture as the path of enlightenment. He disliked decadent Brahmanism on the one hand and rigorous self-torture on the other. So he developed the doctrine of the Middle Path -moderation in everything. He declared that after 49 days of incessant contemplation under a tree at Bodhgaya, present day Bihar, he became enlightened, and thus became the Buddha -the Enlightened One. What he discovered was one hundred percent rational. All other nonsense we hear about Buddhism was grafted on to this teaching by various vested interests, which infiltrated his organization like a bunch of leeches in the course of several centuries. Any organization, however great its original goals might be, will be corrupted sooner or later by less noble-minded people.

The Core Message Of The Buddha

After his enlightenment the Buddha declared:

Samyutta Nikaya: Rohitasutta: In this very one-fathom-long body along with its perceptions and thoughts, do I proclaim the world, the origin of the world, the cessation of the world, and the path leading to the cessation of the world.

When the Buddha said “world” he was referring to the “miserable world” he lived in.

What he said were simple Truths: 1. Dukkha -sorrow pervades this world. 2. The cause of Dukkha is desire and attachment to sense objects (people, money, power, title, heaven, etc.) 3. The goal in life should be cessation of Dukkha. 4. This can be achieved by the Eightfold Path, which has to do with all the functions of the mind:

1. Right Understanding. 2. Right Thoughts. 3. Right Speech. 4. Right Action. 5. Right Livelihood. 6. Right Effort. 7. Right Mindfulness, and 8. Right Concentration.

It does not take a psychiatrist or for that matter a rocket scientist to recognize the truths in these statements. Indeed, accepting the reality of the above statements and diligently following the Middle Path would certainly alleviate much stress and consequent Dukkha in this world. The Buddha did not ask anyone to give up his family and become a Bhikku, the begging monk. The order of monks, Sangha, was developed to spread the rational message of the Buddha to the irrational people living in the Dukkha-stricken Brahmanic world.

Ashoka, The First Great Patron

The earliest authenticated teachings of the Buddha could be found in the Rock Edicts of Ashoka the Great, which were carved around 250 B. C. By then, Buddhism had superseded Brahmanism and firmly established itself as the Dharma of north India. Ashoka embraced Buddhism completely and became its greatest champion.

Minor Rock Edict: Piyadasi, King of Magadha, saluting the Sangha and wishing them good health and happiness, speaks thus: You know, reverend sirs, how great my faith in the Buddha, the Dhamma and Sangha is. Whatever, revered sirs, has been spoken by Lord Buddha, all that is well-spoken. I consider it proper, reverend sirs, to advice on how good should last long.

Note in the above Edict the three fundamental utterances of Buddhists: Buddham Sharanam Gacchami, Dharmam Sharanam Gacchami, Sangam Sharanam Gacchami (I surrender to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha).

Ashoka’s edicts reflect the core message of the Buddha:

Girnar version (257 B. C.): I have also ordered my sons and sons of other queens to distribute gifts so that noble deeds of Dhamma and the practice of Dhamma may be promoted. And noble deeds of Dhamma and practice of Dhamma consist of having kindness, generosity, truthfulness, purity, gentleness and good increase (prosperity) among people.

This Dharma did not need gods, rituals, Yajnas, and animal sacrifices. All this Dharma asked was for people to behave in an ethical and virtuous ways. The bottom line was: You don’t need a god to be good.

Practicality Of The Middle Path

In contrast to Jainism’s extreme opposition to violence to animals, the Buddha took a moderate stand on this issue. In keeping with the practicality of the Middle Path, while the Buddha condemned sacrificing animals in Yajna, he did not forbid Bhikkus from eating meat as long as the animal was not killed specifically to feed the Bhikkus. When an ardent follower gently confronted the Buddha about his duplicity in this matter, he replied:

Majjhima Nikāya 55 [I 368-371]: The Buddha replied: “Jivaka, those who speak thus, do not truthfully speak about what has been said or done by me, but misrepresent me with what is untrue and quite contrary to the actual facts…

Jivaka, I say there are three occasions in which meat should not be eaten: when it is seen, heard or suspected that the living being has been killed for sake of a Bhikku. I say: Meat should not be eaten on these three occasions. I say that there are three occasions in which meat may be eaten: when it is not seen, not heard, and not suspected, that the living being has been killed for the sake of the Bhikku, I say: Meat may be eaten on these three occasions.

Legend has it that the Buddha died at age eighty after choking on a piece of pork meat. Perhaps this legend was developed by pork-eating monks to justify eating pork till their last breath.

Karma, Reincarnation And Nirvana

The most irrational parts of Buddhism are these three concepts, which I doubt very much whether the Buddha really believed in them. Whereas Karma and Samsara were pure Brahmanic concepts, Nirvana was the Upanishadic concept. Buddha did not believe in Brahman, the all-pervading Universal Spirit, nor Atman, Its essence in the body of man. Buddhism considered Nirvana as the extinction of “the fire of lust, hatred, delusion, birth, old age, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair, which sets the whole miserable world on the fire of Dukkha.” This was equivalent to the Upanishadic steady state of mind known as Sthithaprajnya. Buddhism believed that the Buddha had many incarnations as Bodhisattva (a wise person) before he was finally born as the Buddha. This, I believe, is simply the production of Brahmins who infiltrated Buddhism in droves and switched into yellow robes after discarding their saffron rags.


Gandhara Buddha (4-5th c), from what is now Pakistan

Buddhism In Modern India

There are many causes of demise of Buddhism in India: The rise of Brahmanism due to the sleight of hand of Shankaracharya; patronage of Brahmanism by various petty-minded kings; the rise of Islamic kingdoms; corruption of Buddhism to the extent that it was not much different from decadent Brahmanism, so on and so forth. With Buddhism’s decline, mindless and ritual-obsessed Brahmanism gained ascendance. Now Brahmins took charge of the newly evolving Hinduism and reinstated their rituals in disguise. With superbly refined brainwashing techniques, which even pope and Cardinals of Catholicism might envy, Brahmins took control of the minds of naïve masses, and created mind-boggling array of gods, and eye-popping rituals, festivals and other shenanigans. By deliberately misinterpreting the Upanishadic and Bhagavata revolutionary shlokas in the Bhagavad Gita, they reinstated Varna Dharma, promoted Jati Dharma and Untouchability. Untold injustice was done to millions of people whom they condemned to life of servitude, and degradation worse than slavery.

Ambedkar And Revival Of Buddhism In Modern India

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the architect of Indian Constitution, was a lawyer, scholar, author, historian, anthropologist, and to Brahmanism an Untouchable. It took the Brahmin dominated Indian government 34 years after his death in 1956 to honor this great man with Bharata Ratna, the highest civilian award of India. In the course of his research, he found out that in the ancient times Brahmins had declared his clan as Untouchables because they were Buddhists, and had forced them to live outside the village limits as Mahars. In ancient India, as in modern India, this practice was a matter of course. Ambedkar embraced Buddhism and converted a large number of Untouchable to that faith. He wrote a book on Buddhism titled The Buddha and His Dharma. There has been no great leader such has Ambedkar since his death to guide the so-called Untouchables, currently known as Dalits, to assert themselves as equal citizens in a democracy. A large number of them have become obsessed with raising their social status by climbing the hierarchical ladder set up for them by clever Brahmanic loyalists: Performing ever more grandiose Yajnas and other mindless rituals in evermore ostentatious temples dedicated to countless gods and goddesses dotting the length and breadth of India.


In the course of their revolutions in the Bhagavad Gita to overthrow Brahmanism, Upanishadists and Bhagavatas incorporated the fundamental principles of Jainism, Buddhism, and other assorted heterodox Dharmas. Bhagavatas downgraded all aspects of Brahmanism (11:48, 53); absorbed all Brahmanic icons into Lord Krishna (11:21-22); and even got rid of Brahman of the Upanishads (11:18), and appointed Lord Krishna in his place as the Supreme Lord full of wonderful attributes (11:3). They declared that Lord Krishna was Atman within the heart of man (15:15). They created a broad-based Dharma standing on the doctrine of Lord Krishna as the very embodiment of Dharma (14:27). They declared that worshiping Lord Krishna by Bhaktiyoga would enable one to transcend the doctrine of the Gunas (7:14) and Karma (9:28), and eliminate the three evils caused by them. Having done all this they made Lord Krishna thunder His Ultimate Shloka in the Bhagavad Gita:

18:66: Abandon all Dharma and surrender unto Me alone. I shall deliver you from all sins; do not grieve.

In this Ultimate Shloka of the Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavatas attempted to unify all the disparate heterodox Dharmas of India, which had arisen in revolt against decadent Brahmanism, under one umbrella. They exhorted everyone to abandon all other Dharmas such as Brahmanism and all its sub-Dharmas such as Varna Dharma and Jati Dharma; Upanishadic Dharma, Buddha Dharma, Jaina Dharma, Ajivika Dharma, etc. Indeed, this was a desperate attempt by the Bhagavatas to rescue Indian society from the death-grip of Brahmanism.

Unfortunately, Bhagavatas, like all other opponents of Brahmanism vastly underestimated the weed-like sustaining power of Brahmanism. Brahmins infiltrated Bhagavatism, confiscated the Bhagavad Gita, hyper-edited the text, rewrote shlokas, scrambled chapters and destroyed its revolutionary spirit. They appointed Vishnu, a minor Vedic deity who fought along side Indra against the hated Dasyus as the Supreme Lord, and reduced Krishna as his 8th Avatara. Now Krishna stood side by side with various animals -Fish, a Tortoise, a Pig, a Half Lion/Half-Man, a Midget, a Kshatriya-hating Brahmin, and a meek-mannered Prince. They declared the Buddha as the ninth Avatara of Vishnu born to mislead heretics to hell.

Now, go and read the voluminous nonsensical interpretations of the above shloka in commentaries written by Brahmanic Acharyas such as Shankaracharya, Madhvacharya, Ramanujacharya, Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Paramahamsa Yogananda, or any other so-called Acharya.

This concludes the series on Heretics, Rebels, Reformers and Revolutionaries of ancient India. Thank you!

About the author

Prabhakar Kamath

Dr. Prabhakar Kamath, is a psychiatrist currently practicing in the U.S. He is the author of Servants, Not Masters: A Guide for Consumer Activists in India (1987) and Is Your Balloon About To Pop?: Owner’s Manual for the Stressed Mind.

Links to all articles in Dr. Kamath's earlier series on Heretics, Rebels, Reformers and Revolutionaries can be found here. Dr. Kamath' series on The Truth About The Bhagavad Gita can be found here.


  • DrK, Very good series.

    Re: They declared the Buddha as the ninth Avatara of Vishnu born to mislead heretics to hell.
    Can you throw some light on this? Who did this? Adi Shankara?

    I am not able to get my head around how a significant percentage of the population gave up Buddhism and switched to Brahmanism. There’s got to be a demonstrated drawback in current one, and some material or emotional or intellectual attraction in the alternative right?
    There’s just not one single clincher (for me) in here..

  • Dr. Kamath,

    As always very analytical and probing. Of course you did not spare another opportunity of lashing out at Brahminism.

    As much as we may blame Brahminical legerdemain for the decline of Buddhism, there are probably a few other reasons for its decline. Because it is not just in India that Buddhism has lost its appeal. It is continuing to decline in other parts of Asia too. Even in Sri Lanka, Christianity is making significant inroads into Buddhist space.

    Even if one looks at Buddhism in Lanka and Thailand, its strongest ideological bastions, it is a ritualistic kind of Buddhism, a far far cry from what Gautama would have stood for.

    I feel that Buddhism while being ideologically superior to and more pragmatic than Jainism suffers from the same lack of what can be termed as cultural and social props to sustain its appeal to the lay people.

    Even today Buddhism is considered a monastic and staid religion lacking the color and vibrancy of a typical mainstream religion and through its zen version is mainly attracting the spiritual fringe crowd.

    Its spiritual essence which I presume was more concerned with introspection and reflection inspiring ethics and wisdom, has also been corrupted not only by Hindu scriptural influence, but also by weird metaphysical concepts like ‘inter-dependent arising’ probably inserted and spread by the Theravada and Mahayana schools of thought.

  • Astrokid.nj: Can you throw some light on this? Who did this? Adi Shankara?

    Response: The first salvo was delivered in the Original Gita: Arjuna Vishada (250 B. C.): 3:35:Death in another’s Dharma is full of fear (of going to hell). Over the centuries, this fear of going to hell caught on and elaborated in the Puranas. Adi Shankarara (780-829 A. D.) had nothing to do with it.

    Astrokid: I am not able to get my head around how a significant percentage of the population gave up Buddhism and switched to Brahmanism.

    Response: As you already know, those days there was no census 🙂 As Buddhist Viharas and Stupas were destroyed systematically, the number of Buddhists in India dwindled over several generations starting around 7th century. Brahmins made an assassination attempt on the life of Harshavardhana for supporting Buddhism. That was the turning point.

    Astrokid: There’s got to be a demonstrated drawback in current one, and some material or emotional or intellectual attraction in the alternative right?

    The Four Noble Truths and 8 Noble Paths were meant to elevate human beings to a higher emotional and intellectual level. Brahmanism always did exactly the opposite: It appealed to the base instincts of man by false promises: We will get you this and that by rituals if you give us money.

    If someone slaps me in the face, my natural instinct is to slap him back. It takes a man of higher emotional and intellectual caliber to resist that temptation and show him the other cheek. If you have two friends one of whom tells you to slap him back and the other tells you show him the other cheek, you are more likely to listen to the friend who tells you to slap him back. Indeed, to average people, slapping the offender back appeals more than getting slapped on the other cheek. Gandhi must be given credit for organizing the mindless mobs into a nonviolent noble-minded Satyagrahis. This is no small feat.

    Ranganath: Of course you did not spare another opportunity of lashing out at Brahminism.

    Response: 1. We are yet to assess the damage done to India by Brahmanism. Islamic invasion of India was instigated by the enormous wealth accumulated by various temples. Ghazni and Ghori kings came to India to loot only because Brahmins told people to donate wealth to those temples. Waves after waves of invaders came to India lured by the illicit wealth of temples. 8 centuries of Islamic rule, and devastation followed.

    2. Besides, the damage done to millions and million of people condemned as Untouchables over two thousand years is nothing but one of the greatest crimes against humanity rivaling the holocaust in Germany and slavery in America. Injustice against Dalits is still a reality in India.

    3. All attempts by reformers to inject ethics into Hinduism failed because Brahmins neutralized them by devious means. So, today, look at BJP/RSS/Hindutava politicians such as Yediurappa, Chief Minister of Karnataka. He puts on huge NAMA over his forehead to proclaim his unswerving allegiance to Hindu Dharma, visits hundreds of temples a year,indulges in hundreds of mindless rituals, and washes the feet of Swamis. He and just about every staunch Hindu politician and bureaucrat like him, is corrupt to the core. These Hindus, and millions of Hindus such as him, do not have a grain of ethics in them. They have no idea whatsoever that the whole idea of a religion is to promote ethical behavior. Rituals have become an end in themselves. These people have become mindless robots.

    Now tell me Ranganath, based on just the above three issues among many others, does Brahmanism deserve just lashing out, or something more?

    Regarding other issues you raised about the decline of Buddhism, I think I have addressed those already in the article. We need to make a distinction between what the Buddha said and what “Buddhists” do, just as we need to make a distinction between what Christ said and what “Christians” do. In this sense, we can’t call Hindus hypocrites. Brahmanism is quite up front with their creed: Let us rip people off by hook or by crook.

    • Dr. Kamath,

      When I remarked about lashing out at Brahminism, my itention was surely not meant to convey any disagreement over criticism of Brahmnical role/legacy in shaping Hinduism.

      Obviously my remark was poorly phrased. While we may differ in degrees, we do share the conviction of the inherently feudal and barbaric intent of Brahminical thought and doctrine.

      The point I am trying to place for debate is apart from Brahminical manipulation and conspiracies, could other socio-political and cultural factors have played a role in the decline of Buddhism and how.

      To repeat, the decline of Buddhism is quite pervasive, not being restricted to the Indian sub-continent and the extent of its ideological dilution is significant and has been happening over more than a millienium. To trace the culpability of all of this to historical events of Brahminical villiany and collusion of priestly and royal interests of some ancient eras, does leave some gaps.

      Though I may be digressing, there are 2 sets of Sanskrit sayings that reflect upon the causal relationship between leadership and following

      One says “Yathaa Raja Thathaa Praja” while another says “Yathaa Praja Thathaa Raja”

      There is an almost universal intellectual consensus on the first dictum, because it sounds very logical, intuitive and reasonable. The problem with this line of reasoning is that causality between leadership and following is not so straightforward or linear.

      Also blaming leadership for social and political evils (lets say in this case the hounding out of Buddhism by Brahmin zealots) is valid upto a point, but still raises the question of absolving followers and masses of any blame or accountability.

      This kind of reasoning is very common in most political and electoral analysis and commentary, where a very heterogenous mass of people or society is always rationalized either to be very wise, reasonable and fair or easily influenced and manipulated, with only the politicians and leaders being painted in all shades and colors of villiany and mischief.

      One would say that a fair interpretation of “Yathaa Praja Thathaa Raja” would be that while it does not necessarily mean that followers influence a leader or that the tail always wags the dog, yet behavior of a leadership could be the expression of the underlying mood and collective thinking or conscience of a very diverse social grouping.

      Our abhorrence of the machinations of dominant social leadership, whether it be Brahmin, Christian or Islamic has its rightful place in argument and analysis. But we must also keep exploring the genesis of the changing and moving under-currents of social moods, preferences and fashions that could be the real harbinger of the manifesting evils and tumults.

      Regarding the comments on the difference between Buddha and Christ’s words and actions of their adherents, there is atleast some historical and academic consensus on Buddha’s existence. But the same can’t be said about Christ.

      Skeptical opinion in the West is coming around to the view that the persona of Jesus Christ is a hoax and a complete fabrication of Christian theology. The so-called sayings of Christ are words/quotes put into the mouth of this mythical figure by many varied authors, out of which atleast 4 (Luke, Matthew, John and Mark) had their fairy tales decreed as Gospels by of all the people the Roman Church, which is itself a paragon of hypocrisy and tranny. Because of all this promiscuous and dubious authorship, the teachings of Christ in the New Testament are as confused, contradictory and nonsensical as the Bhagavad Gita. But who can argue with the mindless monster of faith.

      If you do a comparative study of the evolution of Hindu and Christian theology, the parallels in intrigue, conspiracies, confounding of myth and history, persecution of opponents and skeptics are astoundingly uncanny in their similarities

      Really the jury is out on which of the two, Brahmin clergy and think-tank or Christian clergy, is more malevolent in their thought and action

  • The article Buddha, the Sensible Rationalist, is good.
    Mr. Prabhakar Kamath has done justice to the subject.
    Buddha is the greatest revolutionary the world has ever
    produced. His teachings were relevant in the olden days
    till the present days to free humanity from mental slavery,
    to lead a life of dignity withing placing himself in the
    alter of some super natural force which does not exists

    To know more about Buddha, please read Dr.Ambedkar’s “Buddha
    and his Dhamma” and “Essence of Buddhism” by Prof. Lakshmi Narasu.

  • May the Zen Group of Chattanooga have permission to reproduce the image of the beautiful painting on this site alongside “The Buddha Opposes Varna Dharma”? We would very much appreciate it.
    Janis Hashe
    Zen Group of Chattanooga

    • We do not own the rights to the image. It is a photograph of a Chinese painting that has been highly reproduced online.

    • I think the point of the article is that he was much better than many of his contemporaries.

      Also, while it is right to call some of his teachings misogynist, it is also undeniable that there is enough evidence that he did fight hard against other forms of oppression: the Caste hierarchy in particular. I do not see why we should deny him credit for that.

    • Gowri, I also do not think Buddha qualifies the status of ‘rationalist’ by any standard of contemporary times. I think calling this character a rationalist will mislead most people. Many philosophical ideas in Buddhism are completely metaphysical, untestable and his personal behaviors do not meet minimum levels of decency considering his attitudes towards women and children. The selected few ‘good’ ideas were not his own, they were part of the philosophical discussions of many ancient Indian philosophers.

      The most important element I see is that this Buddha figure seems like an imaginary construction in the mind, generated over a long period, not much different from god Ganesh or Saraswathee. What Siddhartha Gauthama preached, believed and envisioned is not recorded in his own writing by Gauthama or his disciples’. First written records of him appeared few generations later. Possibilities are many; he could have been a figure like Saibaba, but his disciples may have painted a rosy picture, may be the disciples were more ‘wiser’ and smarter than the character they portrayed as Buddha. We simply do NOT know if there was a Buddha to begin an argument.

      I failed to find any convincing evidence that there was a real person named Sakyamuni Buddha (enlightened Gauthama) who walked the grounds of the Indian subcontinent. There is no reliable historical record that can be cross checked.

  • Was Buddha way ahead of his time? – Absolutely

    Was he rationalist? – maybe

    Can he be considered rationalist
    with today’s standard? -Of course not

    Was he humanist? – Absolutely

    I think This article does shows that Buddha was great humanist, as we all know, but not much to say about rationalism, specially when it says that after 49 days of incessant contemplation under a tree at Bodhgaya, he attained enlightenment.
    Good try to include popular Buddha in the rationalist list.

  • As a research student, I find many objections to your essay here. First general criticism maybe that it is not academic enough, for me, you are obviously writing it with genuine original sources, I suppose, then certainly let me know what you read, to write this essay, I am interested in buddhism. You have generalized many things, taken history out of context… for example “irrational beliefs attributed to him must certainly be due to embellishment by overenthusiastic later adherents of Buddhism. Most of the initial converts were Brahmins, who brought with them their Brahmanic baggage”… what proof do you have, to arrive at this claim. Also this claim shows one important fact, you don’t consider brahmins as individual persons, rather than that, you are painting them as a class, again this sweeping generalization is wrong… I could also mention most of the great buddhist teachers, Shariputta etc came from brahmin families but really were against their former school of thought…

    The eight fold path are like a definition on to itself, each term requires more explanation in the context and I read in one book which if you are interested I will write to you, suggests on the contrary, siddhartha as a member of kshatriya clan(appropriate word, since they also had land and cattle control, and their state was a republic, not a kingdom, more like a tribal confederacy, one of whom was siddharthas father)was tutored into subjects like then persistent philosophical thoughts, not a prerogative strictly monopolized by a brahmin clan, unlike what you claim above, since knowledge was more free flowing not strictly bound by stratified societies which appeared later… this follows many objections like, how did buddha construct his arguments as against a particular system prevalent then, what was their society like, we must see that it was 2500 years ago, when the ancient greeks had their dawn of civilisation, and compare that with Indian society like in 1947 and today, so much has changed and its not even 100 years past… My argument is that we make too much assumptions unlike the authors and researchers of western universities, writing on the same subject. I am interested to know more about the nature of class system present then, and what buddha was fighting against, what was the metamorphosis(evolution) thereafter of his own systems… we throw words like varna system as an explanation for resentment(philosophical) without academic proof(if you have please do give me), and construct a villainous role for the group of people then who did a particular work of pagan priestly nature… I object then the connection you make of any nature to the present decadence with correlation to the group of people then. I submit to you that we must see the history in more neutral perspective… I must complain to the author, that you throw around cliches and your constructed opinions(thesis) as objective truth, this may not work to get your point across academically, I hope you understand my point. I am living in Germany and I read many papers(research) written by german scholars, whose works are doing much more in shedding light on the past society as a causality of the present problem formulated by you as your thesis, than constructed history without thorough proof based on archeological evidence, or linguistic evidence or evolutionary evidence presented to the reader whatsoever.

    I am a sceptic myself, I want to know more how we got to the mess and the solution should obviously not be, look its connected to the nature of certain group, like this or like that but a normal group of human beings subject to forces of history constructed a system whose end result is today and what are the holistic points in this chain… Buddha was one such individual who shaped our thought enormously, whatever you name as hinduism has indeed incorporated many of his philosophical points.

    But one major criticism ending my post here is that you push us this version where Buddha came as a rebel to a system(decadent), he created a rebel order of thought, to counter this the old system, which i a way changed a little, then had an ingenious smear campaign propaganda (as if it was planned and executed by a set of conspirators hell bent on subjugating masses to infinite ignorance)and in the end they somehow won and hence now in india we dont have his system any more. Somehow the present system is a product of past or existed as it is in the past and so must be thrown off… I find it hard to buy and search for how it all happened as a natural evolution is what is much more interesting.

  • This article appears to be religious propaganda for Buddhism. The claim of Buddhism being rational sounds hollow when one considers the concepts of terrible Buddhist hell and Buddhist reincarnations, simple or esoteric. Wikipedia lists Buddhist hell as described by Bodhisatva himself. Also, almost any religion has some segments of rationalism. Buddhist propagandist Dalai Lama is trying hard to exploit science to spread Buddhism and failing miserably so far. Billions of people over thousands of years have done Buddhist meditation and have not been able to quantify it’s benefits or significance in everyday terms. Even current research has proven meditation/yoga etc; to have just basic health benefits. So, the peddlers of Buddhism end up pushing spiritual benefits, an enlightened life etc, whatever that means. Incidentally, I have nothing to do with ANY Religion/god etc.

  • This is an excellent article by Shri Kamath. Buddhism is a million times better than the religion of Brahminism. It is a shame that India moved away from the age of enlightenment under Buddhism to the age of darkness under Brahminism. A Monkey does not know the worth of a pearl necklace. But today’s enlightened Indians are moving back toward Buddhism, and so are people of other races.

  • Dear Writer,
    I read your article with so much interest and consideration. I am an atheist now, before I was a Hindu. As I came through science and philosophy in the American colleges, I declared myself an atheist. However, I found some mistakes in your artice. Firstly,the Buddha was not born in India. He was born in Kapilvastu, which is in Nepal. Refering yourself as a rationalist and still not knowing such a historical fact leave you as a hypocrite. Secondly, the Eastern religions, especially Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism are very tolerant that western religions. Did not you study in history that the Jews, for not believing in a Christian god, were evacuated from many countries. Most of them faced anti-Semitism until the late 1950s, while the Indian Jews never had any experience with it. The problem in Hinduism is caste-system, but do you know that Valmiki, the writer of “Ramayana” was not a Brahmin. He was born in a Shudra caste, still Ramayana’s importance parallels the Gita. Also, Hinduism is very tolerant of minorities. Shikhandi, who today could probably fit as a homosexual, fought along with Arjuna to kill Bheesma Peetamaha.

    Totally eliminating Hinduism does not lead anywhere. Buddhism developed from the base of Hinduism. Nepal is a Hindu majority country, still Buddha is revered m100 times more than the Hindu gods. They have co-existed. Also, India is an agricultural country. Not everybody has access to philosophy like you and me. For some, religion is a guide and a heritage. If you totally eliminate Hinduism, then the Indians will be either Christians or Muslims. Where will this lead? Nowhere.

    As a rationalist and an atheist, I am calling on you to spread education, stop caste-system, stop Christian missionaries, stop Islamic theorocracy, and promote philosophical atheism. This is the only way.

    “We have a world to win, not a heaven to think of.”-By myself. You can use my quotation without my permission.

    • Refering yourself as a rationalist and still not knowing such a historical fact leave you as a hypocrite.

      The author said “…was Siddhartha Gautama, a prince of the Sakhya clan of Kapilavastu, a small kingdom at the foothills of the Himalayas..”. So it looks like you read haven’t read the article properly.

      Secondly, the Eastern religions, especially Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism are very tolerant that western religions

      Is that the benchmark for Hinduism? So using your logic, unless Hinduism starts killing people for not believing in it, nobody can criticize it?

      The problem in Hinduism is caste-system, but do you know that Valmiki, the writer of “Ramayana” was not a Brahmin.

      Science tells us that all humans are equal, more or less. Given that, in most occupations you’d expect a proportional mix of people. So what percentage of literary writers were Shudras? People like you love latching onto rare examples and then falsely claim that caste system wasn’t there or wasn’t all bad. Same goes for transgender people. What percentage of all Hindu kings, writers, poets, administrators etc… was transgender?

      If you totally eliminate Hinduism, then the Indians will be either Christians or Muslims. Where will this lead? Nowhere

      That’s just your imagination speaking. Nobody here is calling for elimination of Hinduism. What is being called for is a reduction in irrational beliefs, especially in public policy and discourse.

      • Mr. Satish Chandra,

        Thank you for the critic. This is the very base of a philosphical advancement. You misunderstood some of my points. I have never met you, but I can tell you this is that I am an atheist 1000 times more than the type of atheist you are. Let me answer your first critic- the birthplace of Buddha. Doesn’t the writer says, “He (Buddha) is arguably the greatest Indian ever, and one of the greatest thinkers in the history of the world?
        Second critic-I did not say that the rationalists should stop criticizing Hinduism. What I said was very different. Hinduism, including other Eastern religions, have been developed in India. They are an integral part of India, since they contributed to both the philosophical and mathematical development of India. Unlike the Christian popes and Muslim imams, there is not such a powerful body for the Hindus. Well, there are many now, but they are mainly because of the rise of the Christian population in India and response to the Muslim invasion. Did Hindus or the Buddhists ever have such a powerful religious body? No, they did not. Still, the Roman Catholics have a pope, who I think is equally dangereous as a Hindu upper caste priest. As the missionaries entered India, the Hindu Renaissnace started, leading to the majestic works of Swami Vivekananda and Rabindra Nath Tagore to as bad as the theocratic deeds of the RSS. If the missionaries had never gone to India, I can tell you this that organizations like RSS would never have established. The problem with Indian rationalists, including you, is that is you do not understand the core of the problem. On your third critic-my basic premise is that god is a useless creation of a human mind. Being said that, I believe Valmiki created Ram and Vyasa created Krishna. This applies to all existing religions, with some exceptions of Buddhism and Jainism. Most Hindus, though I do not have a statistical proof, believe this. But they consider themselves Hindus only because they do not wish to be a Christian and are not Muslims. In India you have too many religions. If you are not one, you are another. By this I mean, if you are not a Hindu or a Buddhist, you have converted to Christianity. Such arguments are really wrong, but people do not have other options. Even though India had a base of philosphy and science, most people do not have access to them. As an atheist, I tend to spend most of my time in libraries. But not all Indians can do that. You and I can, but not every Indian can. I have never been to India, but I presume that you have more new churches built than libraries. By the end of 2050, India may be a satellite state of the Vatican.
        I do not believe in secularism, as I do not think that religion should have a say in government. I am an anti-secularist. My atheism has nothing to do with secularism since I believe not any religions should be practiced. India is a secular country- the Muslims can teach their children in Madrassa and you have too many Christian schools? This is the problem of your secularism. In my opinion, religion is an outdated topic and its abolition is imperative.

        “It would be an insult to India if Christianity strongly develops its base. Do not forget that the Africans and the native Americans had their own religions. Either eliminate all, or do not let your secularism open a door for foreign religions to outpass your domestic and homegrown religions”. By me-you can use without my permission.

        • Rationalist, I know your comment is aimed at Satish but I can’t resist responding to it.
          What does ‘1000 times more than the type of atheist you are’ mean?
          / By this I mean, if you are not a Hindu or a Buddhist, you have converted to Christianity.Such arguments are really wrong, but people do not have other options /
          That is a very narrow statement. You have the option to call yourself an Atheist or declare that you do not practise any religion.
          / As an atheist, I tend to spend most of my time in libraries. But not all Indians can do that./
          I don’t know which country you belong to but I am willing to bet not all of your country’s citizens could do that either.
          /I have never been to India, but I presume that you have more new churches built than libraries. By the end of 2050, India may be a satellite state of the Vatican./
          I appreciate your concern but I don’t think there is cause for alarm as such.
          /I do not believe in secularism, as I do not think that religion should have a say in government. I am an anti-secularist.
          But isn’t that what secularism is – religious consideration should be excluded from public affairs?
          Religion is the cause of many problems in India and there may be some problems with our brand of secularism but then Religion cannot be outright banned or abolished. It would only be counter-productive. What we can do is to create awareness about the ills of all religions and don’t consider Hinduism as having any special status.
          And finally Hindusim is not an integral part of India. This article

          on the usurpation of a national identity by the hindu label might help.

          • Geeta jee, I an an anti-secularist for two reasons. First, it never works. Second, my basic premise is that religions and the myths of gods have to be vanished. If you vanish all of them, why do u need a secular government? As long as you have a secular government, religious fundamentalism survives. Do you create a mathematical or a physical government?

        • By your logic someone born in what is today’s Pakistan, but lives in India should be called a Pakistani. But even if it weren’t, your argument isn’t that relevant to the main points raised by the author. You picked on it just to badmouth the author because his views don’t go well with your views.

          And your second point is a perfect illustration of the Hindu Persecution Complex and the laments that Hindu atheists are fond of having.

          Your third point completely avoids the point I raised. Your point was that Hinduism is tolerant to the extent of allowing Shudras to write epics and allowing marginalized people to fight along with others. I said that such examples are the exception rather than the norm. True tolerance would logically imply that such examples are the norm rather than the exception.

  • Rationalist! Name not fits! In the series of Sankaracharya, alwar, nayanmar, Vivekananda, tagore…. Now the hindu- rationalist and hindu-atheist holding their flag to protect the hinduism. The reason is sanatana offered great luxury, assets, employment, security etc… to the people who are in the top of the fold. Globalization and awareness to ignorant masses particularly reach of education is worry some parameter for sanathanatharma in india!, so it is quit natural those people change the card and change the act accordingly. But the ugly is, the mix of the evil in the name of rationalism and atheism.
    – Worst affected by sanathanatharma!

  • The writer of this article is driven by the need to establish his ideology through a person representing the exact opposite of what he has to say, and in this case, Buddha, which is what exactly happens when a religios person tries to “prove” god scientifically. So, i dont think a rationalist of this kind and a religious fool are on different boats. So why do i say buddha was not a rationalist?

    1. All his life he was trying to go beyond the mind and when all his efforts became futile, when there came an utter sense of no-thought, he became enlightened. And he did all this by repudiating all the worldly pleasures, pain, emotions, etc.. Surely, such a person is not a rationalist.

    2. It is said that Mahakashyapa became the closest disciple of Buddha. Yet, they conversed in scilences. They never uttered a word to each other, it is said. Now, the idea of someone having a student with whom he has never conversed is no way rational.

    4. And the writer hugely twists the meaning of Middle Path to his convinience. Middle path is not just helping “seekers” get off their self-torture. It is all about accepting things as they come, without thought, questioning, contemplation, but with utter awareness of what one does. Now this is not something rational to not question, or contemplate upon something.

    5. And most of all, Buddha’s Dhammapadha consists of sutras to escape the cycle of life and death. Buddha believed in eternal existence of the soul, which is also not rational

    The writer has simple played with words to turn Buddha into a Richard Dawkins of the yore

  • Sir,

    Reincarnation is a deep concept it is the direct consequence of causality. Those who have not done enough study think that one person is born again as another person.

    That is not the idea. The idea is there is continuity and conservation of matter and energy.

    • In simple terms, even after thousands of years, Reincarnation Hypothesis remains just an unproven concept and at worst, it sounds like “Bait And Switch” marketing of whatever religion/philosophy. Conservation of matter and energy was not even a gleam in the eyes of the Enlightened One as this is a post Newtonian concept. This is not surprising as religions constantly keep trying to rationalize their Bronze Age claims using science of the material universe. For many believers, it will be very disturbing indeed to learn that reincarnation is not what the word promises, as they spend their whole life in organizing their time around religious activities.

  • Dr. Kamath,

    “Karma, Reincarnation And Nirvana: The most irrational parts of Buddhism are these three concepts,
    which I doubt very much whether the Buddha really believed in them.
    Buddhism considered Nirvana as the extinction of ‘the fire of lust, hatred, delusion, birth, old age, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair, which sets the whole miserable world on the fire of Dukkha.'”

    If we reject Nirvana as defined here as irrational,
    does it not amount to rejecting the fourth noble truth?

    The 3rd and 4th noble truths talk about Nirvana
    (cessation of Dukkha and its causes) and the way leading to them.
    How can we accept them, if we don’t accept the idea of Nirvana as defined here?

    • It is beyond me why people think that they can do historical research without a sound “scientific” methodology.

      The author claims that the historical Buddha probably didn’t believe karma, reincarnation, and nirvana. Fine. Now how are you going to go about proving that claim? For example, in the Pali Canon, are the verses that deal with these subjects of a demonstrably later date than the other verses? Can you prove that these verses are of a later dater using your knowledge of linguistics and Prakrit?

      Essentially, the author has a mental image of what he emotionally feels the Buddha was like. And because his “ideal Buddha” is a rationalist, he sweeps the metaphysics under te rug.

      The truth is, unless you can prove otherwise, the historical Buddha most likely did believe in these metaphysical concepts. They are the foundation of everything he preached– including the theory of “anatta.”

  • 2. Buddhism is against superstitions, sooth saying, Horoscope etc because all these have roots of desire.

    Yes, but why is desire wrong?

    • To paraphrase a story of Buddhist lore, try to get a handful of mustard seeds from anybody in the world who found real and lasting happiness by fulfilling rather than giving up his/her desire.

      • Again that does not answer why desire is wrong.

        Also I don’t see the connection between desire and superstitions like soothsaying and horoscopes implied by the Buddhist apologist up there.

  • Further Karma is the only rational explanation for the grief, suffering and destitution we see in the world.

    Shit happens is a better explanation for grief, suffering and destitution. There could also be a multitude of other reasons, and Karma is not one of those reasons.

    Also the idea that you will explain away suffering with a concept like Karma is quite disturbing. It is sort of reasonable to blame a victim of a car crash for his rash-driving, but that is not what you really mean by Karma. You are in fact blaming a child stricken with cancer for Karma he/she carried over from a previous birth.

    Rebirth can be considered rational considering what we think – we do and what we do – we become.

    If we had that kind of flexibility then anything irrational can be considered rational. Eg. Heaven/Hell are a mental state, and we know mental states exists. Therefore belief is Heaven/Hell can be considered rational.

    The Buddha himself recalled his hundreds of millions of previous births in different realms while attaining Nirvana.

    Seriously? Now this is getting really funny. What was Buddha’s millionth previous birth like? How about 100 million previous birth?

  • (To the author of the article, Mr. Prabhakar Kamath)

    Respected Sir,
    As a fairly rational and unbiased observer (if I can claim myself so – I am disenchanted with most religions, but at the same time I feel all these religions have some good aspects that make sense from a rational or humane perspective), I agree with Mr.Venkata Rao, Mr.Adarsh and a few others who have who have pointed out that your article does not provide sufficient proof for you claim that Buddha was a complete rationalist and that it is Hinduism (or any other religion for that matter) that corrupted Buddhism and brought in irrational (or “supernatural”/”beyond cognition”) concepts into Buddhism.

    1. Even the most objectively written books that I have come across on ancient Indian history indicate that Buddha talked about concepts like rebirth, karma etc. and never rejected them.

    2. Given that Buddhism spread fairly quickly to SriLanka some east/south-east Asian countries which were not under the hold of Vedic Hinduism, it is difficult to believe that those who embraced Buddhism there would have got influenced subsequently by Hindus or that orthodox Hindus would have had sufficient time to irrationalize Buddhism to such an extent before it spread to those countries.

    3. Why would orthodox Hindus convert to Buddhism just for the sake of corrupting it, given that several non-converts were actively involved in debating with Buddhists and also trying their best to build up a strong case for themselves by delving deep into metaphysical concepts expoused in some of their own scriptures?

    4. Jainism arose as a prominent religion at the same time as Buddhism and it too has concepts like rebirth, karma etc. Jainism is supposed to have been only formalized by Mahaveer while having more ancient roots, in some school of ascetic/Shramanic tradition. Why hasn’t Jainism deviated much from the original preachings of Mahaveer while Buddhism has? I still hear about Jain monks adhering to extreme levels of austerity, just like ancient Jain monks did. I am not talking about layman/non-ascetic Jains here, but about those who are deeply involved in their religion.

    5. Given that Buddha too is believed to have interacted with and/or followed various ascetics for a substantial period of time before he came up with his own views, it is quite likely that he borrowed some ideas of theirs which he found meaningful to him while rejecting those which didn’t answer his doubts. Given the lack sufficient number of reliable, objectively-written and well-preserved historical documents, it would be safer to state that Buddha was a “semi-rationalist” or a philosophical revolutionary of his times. Claiming that Buddha was a complete rationalist (by current day standards) with little or no evidence to substantiate it would only weaken your arguments in favour of the rational aspects of Buddha. At the same time, I do feel that Buddhist philosophy (at least to the extent I know of it) is more rational than the philosophies of several other religions of today.

    6. Btw, why did Buddha reject Purana Kashyapa’s philosophy? Te latter is stated to have strongly opposed rebirth, karma etc., although his preachings were worded in a such way that they suggested that there is absolutely no effect of any action, good or evil, even in one’s own “current” life, which we know is incorrect. Going by the same line of reasoning as yours, one can argue that that Kashyapa’s was only referring to karma in the context of afterlife and that his teachings were misconstrued or corrupted. If so, Purana Kashyapa seems to be a stronger rationalist than Buddha.

  • May I ask What does “Rational” mean?
    Looking at these comments, it seems there are multiple notions of “rational” that are incompatible with each other.
    Is there widely accepted, well defined notion of “rational”?
    If so, what is it?
    If not, how can we use such a vague and tenuous notion to determine the truth or falsity of a proposition?

  • Before attaining enlightenment , Buddha went through the process of learning under various teachers and in various practices prevalent during period . So it is far fetched to say that he may not be aware of upanishadic teachings. He was every inch a product of his times. There were many teachers and people professing agnosticism, materialism and other shades of opinions in sharp contrast to prevailing vedic teachings. But Buddha stipulated that the bhikshus should be organised under a sangh , modern equivalent of association or the christian church, which saw him surviving him for all these centuries. The others were solitary teachers , roaming across the country fostering atheism , agnosticism and skepticism etc. Buddha was not atheist, but agnostic.

    • Great post, very informative. I ponder why the other experts of this sector do not realize this. You must continue your writing. I’m confident, you’ve a great readers’ base al81ady!|What&#r2e7;s Happening i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I have discovered It positively useful and it has helped me out loads. I’m hoping to contribute & help other users like its helped me. Good job.

  • “a. Was the Buddha a rationalist?.

    Ans:- NO HE WAS NOT. He was an Atheist with respect to the concept of God. But his religion did include the concepts of Karma and Rebirth.”

    To say that Buddha was an Atheist implies that he answered the questions like “Does God exist ?”.
    Actually he approached such questions in a different way. He subjected every question that was raised in his times to a test. Briefly his test was “Does this lead to the cessation of suffering?” (
    If the question passed such scrutiny, he considered it worth answering, otherwise not.

    What were the concepts of Karma and Rebirth that were supposed to have been included in his ‘religion’?

    One common notion of Karma is ‘Whatever a person experiences whether pleasure or pain — all that is caused by past deeds’

    In this discourse ( he considers this one and related questions.

    Similarly, one common notion of Rebirth is “There is an immaterial soul that transmigrates from one life to another”. This discourse ( considers this question and related ones.

  • Sir,
    I read many of the articles in this forum.. very interesting. though i believe in religion and scriptures i always questioned myself when i read them be it BG or bible.. i have not read quran as could not find an english or tamil (My mother tongue) translation. one thing that was primarily found in them (critics can tell it otherwise for their own convenience) was to spread love and humanity which for me is the only religion which many scientific inventions and discoveries failed to do so though we have gained by it for mere point of usage.
    i started to type to tell one thing but left the point.. the point is some of the writers in this forum who especially write about hindu religion, indian politics etc are conveniently sitting US, serving the west and earning in dollars, not felt an iota of pain what we are going through in our country India.. in that way i have to put them aside as cheap critics and has no moral to write about my country…i would still with humility call them back to india especially Dr.Kamath and Ranganath to serve the Indians if in case they have gained the knowledge (studied medicine or any degree) in India.. till then i would tell they are equally selfish and no moral as the brahmins and the scriptures they are criticising about…

  • I disagree with author. What Buddha believed, how he meditated and performed penance is not known. However one thing is clear. His teachings predominantly speak of killing desires and passions. Kama (lust) and Krodha (anger) are the main enemies in the path to salvation. All Hindu darshanas (Vedanta, nyaya, sankhya, yoga, meemamsa or vaisheshika) agrees to it.

    It can be understood that during his period people of all castes have become selfish and full of desires. Even the Brahmins were performing sacrifices with desire (to become heavenly beings-demigods or make riches in this world) . Hence he ridiculed animal sacrifice performed out of desire and not performed for the welfare of nature/world or part of duty. Also I don’t think some one will sacrifice milk giving cows. Pashu bhedana means killing of animal (herbivores) and does not mean cow. Mostly it is goats that are satisfied. Even in rare occasions bulls might have been sacrificed , but never milk giving cows..

  • Buddhism is very similar to Hinduism if one takes Nagarjuna’s school of Madhyamika and Shankaracharya’s school of Vedanta. Both believe in an Ultimate Reality which is indescribable and on which all illusory and transient phenomenon are dependent and the realization of which is the ultimate goal which can be achieved through non-attachment. An immense amount of Sutraic and Upanishadic matter support this idea. Hence to some extent to call Buddha a rationalist in the modern sense of the word or to say that he was irreligious is a bit extreme though we can all agree that he opposed traditional Brahmanism with its sacrifices and orthodoxy. But then, many Brahmins themselves have done so. Truth be told, atheists hold a very romantic view of the Buddha as the torchbearer of rationalism. The plain truth- he was a religious leader through and through.

  • Though I’m going off topic, I would say romanticism of rationality to the extreme is a highly narrow approach to life. The nature and evolution of the human has both rational and experiential components. Just above I saw a comment by a rationalist calling for “abolition of religion”. What respect does one have for freedom of expression? I’m not a supporter of the whole of Hinduism or Buddhism, but folks it’s going to outlive even atheism. You like it or not yoga and meditation works. Christianity and Islam will eventually collapse as people will become atheists and rationalists. But meaninglessness, emptiness, selfishness, only material pursuits and a sense of spiritual yearning will let them turn to yoga- either Hinduism or Buddhism. Caste won’t exist in the long run, but yoga will. Because it works and is the closest spiritual practice to agnosticism. The problem is you guys don’t see the importance of spiritual dimension of humans.

  • Prabhakar Kamath seems to be from a Brahmin background but he is a critic of Brahmin hegemony .Yet he seems to be a fan of Gita and Upanishads and the agnostic or rather abstract reality concept of God profound in nirguna brahm concept of advaita.
    I am Hindu theist anyway, but in my understanding, Buddhist teachings does not speak about God although they believe in soul, meditation and final salvation (escape from births, rebirths). Then how come Buddha is rationalist(sensible rationalist?) ? Can some one enlighten me?

Leave a Comment